7 Critical Ideas for your Basement Home Theater

Of all the basement ideas, a home theater is probably right near the top of the list. This post isn't just about a basement home theater, this is just how I finished my basement family room to be movie, video game and sports watching ready. If you want the best home theater for your newly finished basement there's are some essential pre-drywall steps that you'll need to take.

basement home theater header

FYI: this is not my basement, (see end of post). It's a great theater room idea though.

In my case, I didn't want a whole "room" dedicated to a home theater. When I was finishing my basement I designed an open floor plan.  This way my friends and family could be playing darts or air-hockey while we watched college football or played video games on a big screen.

Now close your eyes and imagine this scenario...  Wait! You can't read this with your eyes closed.  Keep your eyes open, but picture this in your mind. 

With one click of a button the lights dim.  Your 110" projection screen drops down silently from behind a beam in the ceiling.  The curtains close in and the movie begins. Your whole family is there, plus a few friends, maybe a neighbor or two.

They've got popcorn in hand and drinks by their side and there's stack of hot pizzas on the bar behind you. The rope lighting you installed in the ceiling molding casts a soft light across the room. Everyone is excited to see this latest movie release, in high-definition, with full surround sound.

Welcome to your basement home theater room. In this post I will cover some of the key decisions that I made when wiring my basement for audio and video.

7 Ideas to Consider for Your Basement Theater (Before Drywall !)

  1. Choose your Screen Wall
  2. Pull Cable and HDTV Antenna Wiring
  3. Pull Cable for Wired Internet
  4. Install a Dedicated Electrical Circuit
  5. Install Surround Sound Speaker Wire
  6. Install a Conduit for Your Projector
  7. Install Ceiling Plugs for Your Projector

1. Choose Your Screen Wall

You need to choose the wall or section of wall in your finished basement where you will put your TV screen or projection screen (or both!).  The major factors to consider are:

  • Viewing Distance - will the screen be the correct distance from where you and your family and friends will be sitting? A general rule is 10-15 feet from the screen for a 50-60 inch screen.  I was kidding about 110" screen. For that you need like 25 feet of distance.
  • Sunlight - will the screen be facing a large window or door where a lot of sun could hit it.  If so, consider using a different wall or plan on installing blinds and or a lot of curtains.
  • Games and Such - can you play darts, pool, air hockey, whatever and still see the TV?  People!  This is important!

The cool thing is that you know how to wire extra plugs, cabling or speakers.  So any basement idea you have is possible, you don't have any restrictions.  For all kinds of cool theater articles, check out www.hometheater.com One of my best basement ideas is to wire two screen walls instead of just one.  I just couldn't decide where the screen would go.  It only cost me a few extra bucks and about a half days work.  But now I can switch my furniture arrangement around and still be setup perfectly for a home theater.

2. Pull Cable TV Cables (aka RG6, aka Coax)

best basement idea - RG6 cabling before drywall

Whether you're going to use traditional cable, satellite, antenna or all three, they all get carried from your "home run" to your screen wall by coax cabling. I installed 3 separate coax lines.  Two for cable and one for my HDTV antenna that sits in my attic.  But it really doesn't matter - you can use the lines however you want. With 3 lines I can have 3 tvs with three different shows on at once.  That qualifies as a small sports bar in my book.

3. Pull Ethernet Cables (aka Ethernet)

cat6 100 feet - basement ideas for wiring basement family room

Here's an idea - Future proof your basement with CAT6 instead of using CAT 5e

Internet access is a critical component for any kick-ass entertainment hub. Almost all video game systems now utilize an internet connection. You can stream hi-def movies through Netflix, Hulu or other systems. Plus there's internet radio and new internet enabled TVs.

I know there's wireless internet and it does seem to get better and better every year, but no wireless setup is as fast and as secure as a "wired" internet connection.  So I ran 2 separate wired internet lines (100 feet of CAT6) from my home run to my screen wall.

UPDATE 2016: Most, newer, wireless networks are now as fast as wired. They CAN handle HD streaming. However... I still like having a dedicated wired connection. Wireless networks are still a bit flaky, interference from neighbors networks, overload from a gillion kids in your house. So if you have the time and a few extra dollars - I still recommend wired.

4. Install a Dedicated Electrical Circuit

This might have been a bit over the top but I would do it again. I installed a separate electrical circuit just for my "screen wall" electronics.

In addition to the normal plug circuit in that room I installed two outlets ( 4 plugs ) that did not share their electrical line with any other plugs. They are dedicated to my TV, stereo, video game systems, etc. This protects those electrical devices from power surges or voltage drops if someone plugs in... let's say... a treadmill, or a guitar amp.

5. Install Speaker Wire

I pre-wired my finished basement family room for 5.1 surround sound. I determined exactly where I wanted the front and rear speakers and installed speaker wire before my contractor came to hang the drywall.

I also added some extra blocking on the screen wall where I knew the front left and front right speakers would go. This way I could easily install the speakers exactly where I wanted them.  I installed the rear speakers in the ceiling bays so those just screwed straight into the ceiling joists.

6. Install a Wiring Conduit in the Joist Bay

If you plan to install a projector you'll need a place to run video wires from the projector to your cable box, Blu-Ray player, etc.  Remember, these are going to most likely be on the other side of the room closer to the TV. I put 15 feet of  2.5" PVC pipe inside the ceiling joist bay. One end of the pipe starts right where my projector will go. The other end comes out near my screen wall.

basement theater - screen wall pre-drywall

Here is my pre-finished basement family TV wall. The PVC in the ceiling is hidden by the insulation but you can see where it comes out. The wires drop down between the studs.

TIP:  Run a piece of string or fishing line through the pipe. When you're ready to wire your projector you can tie one end to the video cable and pull it through.

7. Install an Outlet (or two) in the Ceiling

I wired an electrical outlet in the ceiling of my basement family room. I put this outlet right next to where I know my future video projector will go. One half of the projector outlet is to power the projector and the other half is designed to power some rope lighting that I plan to install around the perimeter of the ceiling of  the room. This rope lighting plug is hooked to a switch on the wall. This way, someone can easily turn the rope lighting on or off.

You might also want to add a ceiling outlet above the screen wall to power a projection screen motor. You could then drop down your movie screen with the flick of a switch.

Jason's Basement Theater Setup

I wish I had some finished pictures to share but my family theater room is not finished yet. I've pre-wired everything but my budget has not allowed me to really finish off that room to its full future glory. I need carpet, a couch, video projector, tables and a TV. basement finishing jason 205Help me out!  

If this website has been helpful to you please use my affiliate link when you buy anything from Amazon (use this link). You get the same exact price, I get a small commission. Once I've earned enough cash, I'll pimp out my basement family room and blog about the whole thing.

Cheers -  Jason

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Questions and Comments

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  1. says

    Hi there, i would like to tell you that you are calling coax cable as RJ6 and it is not right, the right name for it is RG6 cable.
    Just want to point that to you, by the way your article is very good.

    • says

      Doh! Yes I did, good eye Sebastian. I've corrected it now. I must have been hearkening back to my college days, I think there was a RJ cable, it had like a little metal hook thingy. Thanks, Jason

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  3. says

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  4. Matt says

    You need to remove the section on network cabling. Wireless is definitely every bit as "secure" in 90% of applications, and CERTAINLY secure enough for any generic home users' needs. Routers and APs are very cheap, too. Running cabling and wiring ports is really just a waste of time in the year 2015. They make wireless adapters if you really need to physically plug in to something, too.

    RJ45 is the plastic connector on the end, not the wire, by the way. So if you want to leave it up, you should say to run Ethernet cable or CAT6 cable.

    • says

      Hi Matt - Good point. I've updated the post to include a comment that wireless is now just as fast as wired. BUT... I still prefer and recommend a Wired connection. It IS more secure and is won't be affected by channel interference or overload. So agree to disagree, if you want we can fight it out physically until one of collapses in a pool of our own blood. - Jason

        • says

          Hi Amy - Probably not. Not for a home theater room anyway. If it was a regular family room where you might do other things - like play a board game or just hang out - then yes I would add more, but for a theater room - you're good to go. - Jason

  5. Brett says

    Definitely do not need to sit 25 feet back for a 110" screen. I have a 140" and sit only 15 feet back. Very immersive. When I play PS4 I sit another 7-8 feet back. Its all on your enjoyment level but definitely not required to have that much space.

    • Ryan Gillen says

      Agree with your screen size comment! What is the point of doing a projector if the screen is only 50-60"? Get a flat panel in that case. A screen should be BIG to fill your field of vision, and 15 feet is fine for 100" screen.

  6. says

    I like the suggestion of yours to put an electrical outlet on the ceiling to plug the projector into. I wouldn't want to run an extension cord from the ceiling and down the wall to reach an outlet, that wouldn't look as nice. We are moving into a new home that has an unfinished basement pretty soon. We thought it would be really fun to have a home theater; it's always been a dream of mine. I think it's cool you're putting rope string lights up there too, that would make a good addition to the overall look. I'm really excited to get started and even more excited to watch movies down there. Thanks for the tips!

  7. Michael J Orndorff says

    Your distances for TV viewing is totally off. With 4k tvs and projectors, the distance away is shorter and shorter the higher the definition.

  8. Peter Ajanaku says

    Hi Jason - I am building my first dream home in MA. I have the luxury to customize anything as I am watching the house rise from concrete foundation and love your forward thinking to pre-wire the basement ideas. I will definitely follow your types of cable for my builder to include.

    I do have an important question though - Have you heard about a wall mount unit that could lead from the living room made to expose most of these connectors mention (coaxial, RJ-45, ethernet, F-B speaker wires etc) on a panel-to-panel (Living room to Basement) to terminate end to end in the market, or any makers out there? If so, I need some information or any conduit with all necessary wiring all in one for basement theater wiring from living room?

    • says

      Hi Peter - I would love to have an entire blog dedicated to the theater and stereo components / installation... unfortunately I do not have a recommendation for you on this one. - Jason

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